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Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages (Continued)

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 3
Unrevised

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  3 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly] I think he used the word "lazy" and if he did not, I am happy to be corrected. However, on behalf of my party, I thank all the civil servants for the work they have done, as well as all the public services and agencies that are involved in producing complex legislation such as this and ensuring that the Houses of the Oireachtas function so we can be here today to debate this Bill. It was extremely disappointing but the Minister of State has an opportunity now either to associate or dissociate himself with the remarks of his colleague. That is important. We should not just head off into the recess with those words ringing in the ears of the men and women who work extremely hard in the civil and public service. The people who are around us today are outside their usual place of work and are here to facilitate the House being able to sit today. They have gone above and beyond to come here and are certainly not sitting around watching box sets or the like.

To return to the purpose of the amendment regarding tactical insolvencies, I would welcome a commitment from the Minister of State that we will be able to work together on the legislation Sinn Féin put forward in the last Dáil and which was supported by his party.

Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy At the outset, I did not hear Deputy MacSharry's contribution in the Dáil. For my part, in my dealings with Westmeath County Council, Longford County Council, the HSE, the people who are running the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Garda and other bodies, many people went over and above the line of duty to facilitate the smooth running and operation of their respective roles. That goes without saying. That also applies in the private sector. Consider the retail workers who went above and beyond to ensure the shops stayed open. My parents had a concern about where we would get food when the pandemic originally broke out. Many people went above and beyond the line of duty. Unfortunately, in some instances some people probably did take the mick, but my dealings overall with everybody led me to believe that the vast majority of people went above and beyond the call of duty in their work.

Regarding tactical insolvency, I have been advised by my officials and the legal advisers that there is a provision in the existing legislation under which tactical insolvencies can be challenged and if the challenge is upheld, any assets that were stripped would be required to be paid back. I believe there has never been a challenge. For me, that demonstrates that the burden of proof is disproportionate and there is a need to review it. I am more than happy to sit down with the Deputy and discuss how we can bring that forward. It is not something that can be done in a knee-jerk reaction, and I accept the Deputy is not suggesting it can. The Bill went through various Stages in the last Dáil but we must be conscious in enacting legislation, and this was mentioned by my colleague, Deputy McGuinness, that any new laws or regulations must be proportionate and we must examine the potential for any unintended consequences. This must remain an attractive place for people to start business and create employment and opportunities. If the Deputy contacts my office today, we can set up a meeting for the first week in September and I will happily sit down with her.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Amendment No. 2 has been ruled out of order.

   Amendment No. 2 not moved.

  Sections 17 to 26, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 27

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Amendments Nos. 3 to 6, inclusive, are out of order.

  Amendments Nos. 3 to 6, inclusive, not moved.

  Question proposed: "That section 27 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly It was remiss of me not to congratulate you publicly, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, although I did so in person. I am delighted. You were not elected because you are a woman but it is good that you are nonetheless, and I wish you the very best in your new role. I know that you will be impartial and fair. I also know that you will be firm so I will just have to deal with that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Thank you.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly My amendments were ruled out of order. They referred to facilitating the establishment of workers' co-operatives. In the North, Scotland and across Europe, workers' co-operatives and community co-operatives are very much the norm, but they are not the norm in this country. It is a very good way of working. I read in the newspaper recently about a co-operative of migrant workers who came together to provide a not-for-profit home care service. If ever there was a place that needed a not-for-profit home care service, it is this State. We have debated at length the need for in-home care for people and giving them that choice and opportunity. Workers' co-operatives are a fantastic way to do that.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 8, inclusive, sought to make changes to allow for the formation of these co-operatives, to reduce the number required to establish a company board and to make provision for the creation of a legal definition for co-operatives. I stress that workers' co-operatives are a different way of doing business. We all talk at length about how we are living in unprecedented times and say that this is perhaps an opportunity for people. If there is an opportunity here to re-imagine how we do business and workers' rights, which I would love too, and to re-imagine the area of workers' co-operatives, we should take it. I was disappointed that the amendments were ruled out of order. Where businesses are struggling, the option of saving them through the formation of a workers' co-operative can be viable in some instances. We should be trying to create the conditions to facilitate that. If businesses are struggling, the employees or staff in some instances might want to be able to come together to form a workers' co-operative, as happens in many other countries in Europe. It is a mechanism through which one can maintain employment and continuity of service. The business can be kept alive. It is ideal for our State. It would be a good opportunity to see wealth and jobs created locally and kept within our communities. We have fallen behind the rest of Europe and my amendments sought to give us an opportunity to catch up.

I welcome what the Minister said about us meeting in September to talk about tactical insolvencies. While we are there we might also have a chat about workers' co-operatives and the potential they offer. Historically, this island was a pioneer in respect of agricultural co-operatives. The Minister of State will be familiar with them, as I am. We are all talking about re-imagining business. The opportunity exists to do that. That was the purpose of my amendments and I am disappointed they have been ruled out of order. Notwithstanding that, I believe there is scope for us to discuss workers' co-operatives, perhaps not as part of this legislation but at some time in the near future.


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